Founder of language learning platform Babbel steps down as co-CEO to focus on board role

Babbel, the popular Berlin-based language learning service, today announced that its founder and current co-CEO Markus Witte is stepping down from his CEO role but that he will remain the executive chairman of the companys board. The companys current co-CEO Arne Schepker will become Babbels sole CEO.
In addition to these leadership changes, the company also today announced that it has appointed Katherine Melchior Ray, who held previous executive positions with luxury consumer brands like Japans Shiseido, Hyatt Hotels, Tommy Hilfiger, Gucci and Louis Vuitton, as its new chief marketing officer.
All of these changes come as Babbel hits 100 million in revenue for its 2018 financial year.
As Witte and Schepker told me in an interview ahead of todays official announcement, there were a few reasons why the team decided this would be the best way forward. And while its unusual for U.S. founders to step back from their CEO role, especially as a company is hitting a new growth phase, Witte argues that going forward, being the chairman of the board will put him in the best position to ensure the companys future going forward.
Founder of language learning platform Babbel steps down as co-CEO to focus on board role

Being CEO and chairman of the board has pros and cons, Witte told me. To say that the founder and chairman are one and the same person, thats the West Coast model and every now and then, that has its advantages. But its not what people would consider good governance in Europe and at times, it makes things harder because it creates a conflict of interest in board meetings.
Those conflicts, Witte argues, made him less effective in the chairman role and, in addition, he believes that Babbel has now reached a point where the chairman and CEO just cant be the same person anymore. And so he decided that if he had to choose, hed stay as chairman of the board because thats the role where he can ensure that Babbel remains true to its mission.
He also admitted that as the company grew, the workload became a bit too much. CEOs like to overestimate themselves and Im no exception, said Witte. But you get to the point where you have to say: I cant fill all of these roles anymore.
With Schepker, Babbel had brought on an outsider as CMO a few years ago who proved himself in the co-CEO role and was, in Wittes view, ready for the CEO role, making his decision easier.
Schepker tells me that the company doesnt plan to change its overall strategy going forward. We have a clear strategy and we plan to implement that even faster but thats independent of these leadership changes, he told me. The focus is on how we can create more value for our customers, our learners, by looking at how we can better guide them through their personal learning journey. The problem that most learners face is that, unless they studied it in college, they never learned how to effectively learn a new language.
In practical terms, this means that Babbel will look at expanding the range of language learning opportunities for its users to better guide them through their learning experience (and for longer).
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